The Effective Hurricane Messaging Course has been an evolving effort led by a group of NWS meteorologists from local field offices, and regional and national headquarters. The course has been held at the National Hurricane Center three times thus far – the most recent being in February 2015. The EHM course is a five day course focused on both science and crisis communications. Meteorologists and hydrologists in the NWS must have a deep knowledge of the science behind the graphics, products, and services developed at the national, regional, and local office levels for tropical cyclones, and have the ability to communicate impact-based information in a clear, concise way to NWS customers and core partners. The course has been attended by select management and forecasters from each of the coastal or state-supporting local NWS offices that are impacted by tropical cyclones. Subject matter experts with tropical expertise from throughout the weather enterprise compose and conduct the training curriculum. The EHM course is a healthy mix of short presentations and interactive discussions. Students are given a chance to interact directly with social scientists, emergency managers, NHC staff and NWS leaders in the tropical program. Course participants are given the chance to share best practices on hurricane messaging, and also collaborate on ideas and provide feedback on briefing templates and other ways to improve NWS products/services. Each of the participants is run through a hurricane-focused media scenario which includes “feet to the fire” practice interviews. The course ends with a full-scale simulation based on a mock storm case which has been developed by the facilitators. The simulation enables groups of participants to practice in each area of tropical cyclone communication (core partner briefings, media, and inter-office communication). The facilitators run a hot wash at the end of the simulation. The Effective Hurricane Messaging Course provides a highly-interactive classroom setting where participants can become skilled in crisis communication for a tropical cyclone event. The hope is that NWS will continue to support this classroom course in the future.
The Gulf South DSS Workshop held in Slidell in July 2014 represents another successful example of interactive, in-person DSS training. The workshop was conducted by staff at NWS Slidell. Eight local NWS offices participated in the workshop. Participants were given the opportunity to share DSS examples from their local offices, and collaborate on best practices for social media, technology, and effective briefings. A media training session included mock interviews where participants were given feedback from facilitators and peers. The final half day of the Workshop was a full-scale exercise. Each pair of participants provided DSS for a mock event in their local area. In each of the simulations, the participants' local areas were in recovery mode following a major event, with additional scenarios thrown in to further complicate the situation (e.g. HAZMAT incident, river flooding, nuclear incident). Participants had to operate in a high pressure situation - preparing time sensitive briefings, dealing with “stressed” emergency management, talking with politicians, and conducting media interviews. A hot wash was held at the end of the simulation where facilitators provided constructive feedback.